COLUMBIA, Mo. — The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that private attorney Elad Gross is continuing to do what Attorney General Josh Hawley will not: seek answers about the dark money donors behind former governor Eric Greitens’ nonprofit organization. Gross has repeatedly called for assistance from Hawley, saying that “The law is set up so that the attorney general’s office is the one (that is) supposed to be investigating this, not for a citizen of the state to be doing his (Hawley’s) job for him.” While both Gross and Republican Rep. Jay Barnes have been demanding answers about the organization, Hawley’s abdication of responsibility raises serious questions about whether he is refusing to do his job simply to protect his own dark money donors.
Attorneys for the dark-money group A New Missouri on Thursday sought to stymie an attempt to force the nonprofit to reveal its financial information to a St. Louis attorney.
…Gross is citing a state law covering nonprofits that he says should force A New Missouri to open its books, revealing the inner-workings of the organization.
…”If their (A New Missouri’s) interpretation is upheld, I have a very big worry that we’ll see a lot of changes to the nonprofit sector, especially with respect to dark money flowing through the state of Missouri,” Gross added. “I think that people really want to put an end to that.”
Gross said that if his lawsuit is successful, any member of the public could sue any 501(c)(4) group in Missouri to obtain financial records.
“This statute was made for this type of an organization, because A New Missouri has chosen multiple times not to release records to the public,” Gross said. “This organization time and time again has avoided releasing any records.”
Gross said in a previous interview that he thought state Attorney General Josh Hawley, a Republican, should intervene in the case. Hawley is running for U.S. Senate and has rebuffed calls to investigate A New Missouri, saying that the Missouri Ethics Commission is investigating the organization.
“The law is set up so that the attorney general’s office is the one (that is) supposed to be investigating this, not for a citizen of the state to be doing his (Hawley’s) job for him,” Gross said, adding that “I’m not paid” to conduct the investigation, like state attorneys are.
Hawley told reporters at an Aug. 8 campaign event that Greitens’ nonprofit, A New Missouri, was essentially a campaign committee, over which the Missouri Ethics Commission has jurisdiction. Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, wrote in a complaint to the ethics watchdog this summer that the group was set up to skirt campaign contribution limits and conceal the identity of donors, both in violation of state law.
…When pressed on his ability to take action, Hawley acknowledged the attorney general’s office had jurisdiction over non-profits, but he said it did not have jurisdiction over political entities.
…Barnes said in a letter closing out his Greitens investigative committee that the attorney general’s office, the ethics commission and Cole County Prosecutor Mark Richardson all had jurisdiction to probe Greitens’ alleged malfeasance in office.
“Because they (A New Missouri) claimed to be a charity, I think they put themselves under the attorney general’s jurisdiction to some extent,” Barnes said in an interview. “But it’s a fake charity. And the brunt of the illegality associated with it revolves around campaign finance. And the MEC was created specifically to deal with campaign finance violations.
…”I’m hoping he does change his decision,” Gross said of Hawley, adding that he could take on the organization for “deceptive practices” under the state’s merchandising practices law.